Public speaking nerves

Most mental health professionals agree that standing up before an audience is the most common social phobia. However, the ability to speak effectively is a valuable skill, and in many cases it can enhance your professional development. Here are some pointers on how to face and overcome public speaking jitters:

Remember that nervousness is energy - you can channel it into a positive force by showing enthusiasm, intensifying your eye contact and using strong body language.

Try physical exercise - just before you speak, concentrate on the parts of your body that feel the most tense. Deliberately tighten them as much as you can, then relax completely. Make funny faces. Puff up your cheeks, then let air escape. Or open your mouth and your eyes wide, and then close them tightly.

Use your imagination - picture something soothing that brings back pleasant memories. Since water is calming, you might imagine that you’re sailing or walking on the beach.

Try a test run - visualize yourself smoothly delivering the speech from start to finish. If you see yourself as confident and successful in the test run, it will help you re-enact that success during the real thing.

Of course there is no substitute for careful preparation, so be sure you’ve done your homework, also remember practice makes perfect. The more speaking engagements you accept, the more comfortable you’ll become.